The Next Step In Safer Fire Fighting Ventilation Operations


Springfield Fire Capt. Robert Duffy invents 'Quick Step Anchor' to help firefighters stay safer

SPRINGFIELD – A fellow firefighter’s near-fatal fall from a roof more than 10 years ago got Capt. Robert Duffy to thinking. There had to be a way to make rooftop operations, one of the most dangerous aspects of firefighting, safer.

Duffy, a 19-year veteran with the department, pondered the problem a lot, especially as he started to teach rooftop firefighting techniques — including the cutting of ventilation holes to release hot gases — to other firefighters.

“There is a little tentativeness up there because there are no second chances if you slip and fall,” Duffy said.

That’s what happened to Capt. Robert Noble, then a lieutenant, when he fell off the roof of a three-story home at 62 Jefferson Ave. nearly 11 years ago.

Noble spent a year fighting for his life in a hospital before returning back to duty, Duffy said.

Duffy said he had his ‘aha’ moment during a sleepless night about three years ago when he thought of a device that would serve as a kind of safety platform for a firefighter on a steep vertical roof.

“It came into my head and I got up and sketched it,” Duffy said, adding that he started work on a crude prototype the following day.

And thus, the Quick Step Anchor was born. The process was not an easy one, though, and Duffy spent the next three years meeting with engineers, machinists, lawyers and firefighters.

He also spent a good deal of his own money in refining the device.

Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, the Quick Step Anchor weighs only 11 pounds and provides a secure and stable working platform for firefighters as they use chainsaws and other tools to cut into the roofs of burning buildings.

It includes a safety lanyard, which doubles as a carrying strap, that secures firefighters to the roof in the event of a fall.

The device installs quickly and easily with the swipe of chainsaw which allow it to anchor firmly onto the roof. It also can be used as a platform for rappelling operations.

It represents, Duffy said, a vast improvement over firefighters’ traditional use of pick head axes and another kind of tool known as a Halligan to set anchor points onto a roof.

The Quick Step Anchor sells for $995 (the lanyard is extra). Duffy said he has patents pending in both the United States and Canada and purchase orders from fire departments across the country.

He firmly believes that some day it will be saving firefighter lives across the world.

Duffy donated two of the devices to the Springfield Fire Department on May 23 and firefighters here will be the first to deploy it in the field.

“(Duffy) has always risen to the occasion on the Springfield Fire Department and we are very excited to introduce it today,” said Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.

Duffy declined to elaborate on how much money he may earn from his invention. “It’s not about money for me, it’s about helping to save the lives of people who save lives for a living,” he said.

The Quick Step is manufactured right here in Springfield at Jesko Tool & Knife on Front Street in Indian Orchard.

Richard Kowalski, an engineer with Jesko, said the firm initially did pro bono work for Duffy as he developed the device. “It just took off from there,” he said.

The Quick Step also comes in a commercial version that will be able to be used by contractors in construction and related operations.

Meanwhile, Duffy said he has a few other ideas in the offing for other inventions. He’s not ready to tip his hand as to what they are, however.

“There’s no limit to what you can do if you put your mind to it,” Duffy said.

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